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Saturday, May 28, 2016

happy 5th birthday, Mommy Stories!

I cannot believe I've been a kinda blogger for five years as of May 26th. That's so amazing. I'm pretty psyched to reflect back on the last five years and how much I've grown as not only a writer and blogger (I had no idea how to size pictures or post anything when I started!) but mostly as a mom the last five years.

Sharing my own stories has been helpful to me. It's great self-care to reflect on how we're doing as moms. But really, the best part about writing this blog is sharing YOUR stories. I am a believer that it takes a village to raise a child, but more importantly it takes a community of supporters, non-judgers, to build up a Mama to lead that village to raise a child.

I love that my blog can be a vehicle for change and an insight for information to so many mothers. I love that we're able to learn from one another. I'm constantly seeking new ideas and topics for us to discuss on the blog and in the Facebook group. I love how we've grown together.

So thank you! Thank you for being here, listening, reading along with me, liking every post or answering discussion questions. I do this for fun on the side of my super busy mom life. I appreciate all of your patience and encouragement over the years.

I asked the moms in our Facebook group (1900 members and a waiting list of 150! CRAZY!) to share what they know for sure about being a mom, their top 5 things they believe. So here I'll answer the same questions.

Here's what I know for sure about being a MOM.
  1. It's HARD. It's the hardest thing I've ever done - being a mother. And I have college degrees and work a really demanding job. But being a mom: it's 24/7. It's no sick days. It's putting someone else's needs above yours A LOT of the time if not always it seems. It's worrying like you've never done before. It's so much change- your body for starters, your hormones and thoughts and Mama Bear instincts. It can be really difficult to manage sometimes. I think it's good to admit this. It's NOT easy and roses and perfection. It's hard. I know that's what makes it worth it in the end. 
  2. I'm lucky and grateful to be a mother. It's something we should appreciate. Even on those rough days, and there are many of them, we should realize how grateful we are to be mothers. So many friends cannot conceive when they want or ever. It's the hardest thing they go through. I'm so beyond blessed that I've been able to be pregnant and go through that experience with my husband, and raise these wonderful children. I need to stop and remember how lucky I am even when they wake me up too early or I'm beyond exhausted or it's been a rough day of Terrible 2s or something crazy. We're lucky.
  3. I need ME time. I'm never afraid to admit this. I feel sad for the moms who feel they cannot ever take a break for themselves or leave their children. I know it's a normal thing they feel, I just wish they would have the confidence to realize it's OK to be a woman, individual person outside of being a mother sometimes. It's GOOD to take breaks. To do something for YOU. I take time for me DAILY. Even if it's just a longer shower or eating breakfast alone without people taking my food or exercising or scrolling Facebook at night while not doing laundry. I need time to myself and I don't think it makes me selfish or a bad mom. In fact, I hope that if I talk about it enough other moms realize they, too, can do things on their own for themselves and it makes them good moms. 
  4. Everything I do is teaching my children to leave me in the end and be independent. This is such a sad thing a friend told me when I was pregnant with my first... yet I reflect on it often. Everything we do from the time we hold them when they are born and feed them, help them crawl or walk, etc. is to help them become independent little beings, to learn to do things on their own, to be unafraid, to be brave and ready to take on the world. We're teaching them to live without us, to go out into the big world and accomplish goals and chase dreams. It's sad on one hand, and then it's exhilarating and the most honorable work we could possibly do. It's good to stop and realize this when we're making up rules and behavior charts and giving treats and going on adventures. We're setting them up for their futures. How amazing. 
  5. Motherhood: It's the coolest club I've ever belonged to. I can't imagine another group of people besides mothers who can meet total strangers and instantly hit it off understanding about puke or spit up or late nights of no sleep or fears of immunization shots or how annoying it is when we have to count 1, 2, 3 and they repeat us instead of follow our directions! I feel like moms GET each other more than other people. It's a wonderful thing to realize you aren't judged, that someone actually understands your hard or awesome mom experience. I love making new mom friends. I have a couple of mom friends online from the Mommy Stories who I'm forever grateful for - and we haven't even met yet. I have a few old college mom friends who I haven't seen in years but we keep in touch with almost every week online through our mom stories. LOVE this club.

My top 5 stories or blog posts that I love over the years include:
  1. Miscarriages. I think too few women talk about it yet it's something many go through. I realized this last fall when I went through it myself. It's SO important to support one another.
  2. Premature Baby - this story was picked up online by other news feeds but was first shared on my blog, so exciting that we could put an important topic out there.
  3. PPD - This series was so interesting and powerful to read each mom's struggles and courage. I think it's so important to put out there what women go through.
  4. Sleepy Heads - This series was fun to do. I put a lot of time into this reviewing books about helping babies sleep, etc. It's great to go back through for reference ideas.
  5. New Mom of 2: I wrote TONS about this topic on my blog since I could not find anything about it when I was looking to become a mom of two. So here is one article but there are tons on the blog.

The top 5 things I'm most proud of with this blog:

  1. #MomMEChallenge - I love that I try to inspire moms on my Instagram account @themommystories to do things for themselves! I made up this hashtag (cool right?!) to encourage moms to exercise, take a bath, drink something fruity, eat chocolate, read a book, ignore laundry, etc. just to BE themselves instead of 24/7 moms all the time. I think it makes us stronger as moms anyway if we can be ourselves a bit. 
  2. Holiday Support and Shop & Support Moms - We've adopted several families at Christmas time the last two years - buying all the kids' gifts and things for the mom. We've helped out a teen mom, and a mother and family who lost everything in a fire last year. Every SINGLE day there are posts in the Facebook group giving away formula coupons. I love this most of all because it tells me 1) moms are helping each other out financially and thinking of others instead of just tossing them out and 2) we're not judging, formula is good, no breastfeeding debates here! I LOVE that I feature hard working moms who are making creative things to sell to earn money for their families. I do this every November-December in the holiday season to encourage moms to purchase "locally" from moms for their holiday gifts. 
  3. Miscarriage Support Moms - I started this a couple of years ago after a friend had a miscarriage and was seeking someone to talk to and I had no idea what to say to her. I have collected a list of names of moms who are ready to answer questions, be a supportive friend even on social media to a mom going through a hard time. I love that we offer this support. 
  4. Tough Stuff Topics - I'm constantly seeking new topics to add to the blog and discussion group, things that people don't bring up on their own but need to talk about because they are common things moms go through. Things like miscarriages, infertility, allergy health scares, divorces, ETC. It's SO important to me that moms know they can discuss ANYTHING in the group and feel supported instead of judged. I try very hard to monitor discussions so that we're being supportive.
  5. Mom of the Month - I think it's so exciting every month to see who the new person being recognized is. I love celebrating an everyday average hard working momma who someone thinks is just awesome and Super Mom. I know it makes the mom's entire month better, being recognized for what she's just doing every day but is such hard work. 
THANK YOU for reading and following me along this Mommy Stories journey, moms! You're amazing. I've learned so much from you. 

Mom of the Month - Megan Otash

I'm really excited to feature our May Mom of the Month, Megan Otash! She's a SUPER mom if I ever knew one! She does it all - 5 beautiful healthy children, homeschooling, and taxi driving (or so it seems as a busy mom!). She's realistic and honest about her experiences and tries her best to ensure she gives a piece of herself to each of her children as they need her. I love this. She's a real inspiration!

Thanks for sharing some of your life with us, Megan! Congrats :)

Picture shared from Mercy Street Studio and Kathryn 

1. Describe your children in 3-5 words. How did you choose their names?
Courtney: intelligent, ambitious, witty
Riley: outgoing, sensitive, energetic Zoey: fighter, sassy, inquisitive Lacey: curious, loud, too smart for her own good Kolbey: my new bundle of soft, squishy, love 💕
I settled on the name Courtney because her father and I could not agree on a name. I wanted to name her Makayla and he hated that name. Ten years later my husband and I had a boy and we both loved the name Riley. When we were pregnant with Zoey we decided we should stick to the "ey" ending since our first two kiddos ended in ey. Zoey means life and she came at 28 weeks so it was perfect for her! When we found out we were pregnant with another girl, we made a lot of lists and finally both agreed to Lacey. We did the same thing with our newest little guy Kolbey, made a list and finally agreed to Kolbey!
2. How old are your children? How did you tell people you were expecting a baby? Courtney, 19
Riley, 8 Zoey, 7 Lacey, 3 Kolbey, almost 2 months
Courtney came my senior year in high school, the news flew through the school. Riley we found out in Nov and told our family at Christmas with pregnancy sticks in gift bags! Zoey took us a bit longer to conceive and close friends/family knew we were trying! Lacey we weren't trying for and announced it after out first ultrasound. Kolbey was an oooopppssss and I sent a pic of the pregnancy test to close friends/family when I found out, so we could all be shocked together!
3. How would you describe your pregnancies? How was delivery, birth and labor for you? 
My pregnancies were pretty similar nauseous every first trimester. 2nd trimester was always a breeze. Third trimester stunk every time. My last two pregnancies were extremely tough in the last trimester, especially this last one, I'm assuming my age was a factor. I had terrible heart burn, sciatica pain, and my ribs throbbed from feet being in my rib cage. Labor for Courtney, Riley & Lacey was fairly easy, I labored a few hours and pushed them out in 20-30 minutes. Zoey came at 28 weeks, I was in labor for awhile with her, the doctors kept giving me meds to stop the labor, but they didn't work, seemed like weeks of never ending pain until I had her. With my last, I had consistent contractions overnight, my water broke at 10am the next am, which had never happened to me before! I went to the hospital and labored all day and had him right before 7pm.
4. Describe yourself as a mom in 3-5 words. 
Organized, busy, tired, creative, ambitious.
5. What type of mom do you hope your children think you were someday when they're old enough to tell you? 
I hope my children reflect on their younger years and are encouraged by the way I mothered them as children. I hope they recognize the sacrifices I made to stay home with them and to homeschool them and appreciate my efforts and dedication. 

I pray they recall that even during the toughest times we all came out on top. We have had the best of times together, laughing, playing, having so much fun and we've had the worst of times together, crying, hollaring, kicking. 

I want them to remember that life isn't perfect, their lives will never be perfect, parenting is rewarding, challenging, exciting, exhausting, but as long as you give it your all and do the best you can you're doing a great job, and that's what I've done with them. 

I want my kids to remember me as a fun, funny, loving, cuddly momma that loved them very much, but I was also a momma that had no problem kicking it into high gear when the time was necessary and I needed to gain the control and respect that was expected.

6. What things have you done as a mom that you're most proud of? 
I am most proud of taking on the grueling task of staying at home with my kiddos and choosing to home school them. Being home with my children requires a lot of self discipline and patience! I have a structured schedule that the children are all used to so everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing and when. Of course life does throw curve balls and we can be very flexible, but I try to stay on schedule most of the time! I also make sure they are all enrolled in multiple sports/activities to make sure they are all well rounded/socialized. I watch a friends kiddo in my home for extra income to feel I'm contributing financially. I keep a clean, organized house, make a monthly meal calendar, and am the safest taxi cab driver in town.

7. What have been the most difficult parts to being a mom? 
The most difficult part of being a mom for me is taking the advice I've given to many moms that have come to me seeking advice! I owned a childcare center and gave many, many parents a lot of parenting advice, but have the hardest time taking my advice! Like co-sleeping! I have the hardest time putting my babies down! I now have a newborn, 3 yo, and occasionally a 7 yo in my bed at night :0 I will carry my babies around until my arms fall off! A mom looking for sleep advice I will suggest the CIO method (which I have tried), but I can not handle it!!!
8. What is your favorite baby/child product(s) that makes your mom job easier? 
With my 4th the swing and rock n play were my go to baby items. With my 5th if I'm not holding him or he's not in the ergo he's in the swing, but he hates the rock n play 😕
9. What advice about being a mom would you give to a brand new mother? 
It gets easier! Take one day at a time! Savor each and every moment, even the tough times. It flies by so fast. Just remember you will blink and your youngest will be getting married
😞 Enjoy each season you are taken through. This too shall pass!
10. What is a typical day like for you? 
Our typical day:
Wake around 7am Breakfast at 8am/clean up/chores School starts at 9am If done school before noon go outside and play Lunch at 12 Activities are in the afternoon: Swim, gymnastics, ballet, baseball, etc. or play dates/run errands Start clean up/dinner at 5 Tubbies at 630 7pm family movie/play a game/ read books 8pm brush teeth, time for bed!
11. What 5 things would you like to do with your kids someday, if anything were possible and money no object? 
Five things we want to do with our kiddos... Disney! Hopefully in the next year or so
😊 We are also planning a trip to Legoland soon! I would love to take them to San Diego someday! If the flight weren't so long I would love to take them to HI, it is so beautiful there! If terrorism wasn't such a scare I'd love to take them to Europe.
12. What are your top 3 things you'd love to do on Mother's Day to relax?
For Mother's Day I'd prefer to have a big delicious breakfast in bed followed by a massage and pedi at the spa followed by a fun paint nite out with my mom!

13. Tell us a time where you felt like you failed at parenting... but then realized you truly had not failed, things worked out fine. 
There are many times I've felt like I've failed at parenting - like choosing to homeschool my son, who can be very difficult. A terrible day with him makes me question if I've made the right choice keeping him home, but then we'll have a week of great days together and it is clear that I've made the right decision, I'm just reminded life is not easy and there will be hard days. Or when I lose my patience when my 3yo has made another five star mess for me and I holler at her for it and then feel terrible for hollering at her, but the loves and hugs make up for it all. 💕
14. What makes you a strong mom? 
Having strong willed children makes me a strong mom. I have to have patience, energy, and time to give them all undivided attention, which I'm actually getting better at with #5 here now! I thought I'd never figure out how to give them all a piece of me after having another baby, but after seeing how much they needed me made it much easier for me to be able to hand baby off to dad and go play dolls on my girl's bedroom floor, she's never been happier!
Or reading my 3yos Minnie search and find book with her a hundred times and seeing her so content sitting with me. It's the little things that I recognize that make them so happy. I have to be on my toes and ready to go each day with my energetic kiddos that go go go! It's taken me longer to recover after having this baby, but we are finally back into our groove! I need to be the mom they all need even if I'm not feeling up to it!

what we know for sure as mothers

In light of the Mommy Stories' 5th year birthday this week I've asked moms in the Facebook group to share what they know for sure about being a mom. I'm loving the responses! Here are a few:

From Pamela O'Pecko:
  1. It isn't easy.
  2. It's sometimes downright frightening.
  3. You'll never fight so hard for anything in your life than you do your kids and family.
  4. You'll lose yourself and find yourself a million times.
  5. It's all worth it.

From Tori Bullek:

1) Breastfeeding means you will be doing almost everything yourself. It's exhausting but the most enjoyable and rewarding part of being a new mom. 2) You will have a new found respect for your body. I look at my daughter in amazement, that my body built a perfect human and birthed that human, and I'm still alive and sustaining her life with milk my body creates. 3) You will understand why women joke that they have one more child than they do (their husband/boyfriend). I have never been more aware of the needs of my husband than I have been since our daughter was born.
4) You need friends that are moms. I couldn't have gotten through the toughest moments without my mom friends to talk me through things or ask questions. Your family can only understand to a certain extent. You need someone to text at 2am, who you know will respond, because she will be up breastfeeding (again).

5) You are enough. You are the most beautiful being in the eyes of your child. Be confident in your decisions and stand up for yourself and your child. My daughter looks at me with absolute love in her eyes, and there is no better feeling than to be her mom.

Other moms from the Facebook group shared what they know for sure as a mother:

There's good days and bad days. It's not often easy. Time flies by. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff. 
- Megan

Just when you think you have the hang of it, it changes... And that no one really has a clue, so just do the best you can each day. 
- Megan

It's hard! But I love him more than anything in this world. -Amanda

Mother's instinct is a real thing. Don't ever ignore it. 
- Meaghan

 I know that I'm tough. And brave. Mama bear syndrome is no joke. 
- Melissa 

 It's not apples to apples. Each child is different. Each mom has a different scenario. Mothering and parenting isn't the same across the board. You can't assume everyone's situation is the same as yours. 
- Heather

That it really is possible to survive on no energy and little sleep! 
- Amanda

That despite social media posts, every mother has their ups and downs. We all have had the days the make us question our ability to raise another being, the days when we put them to bed and feel as though we must be doing something wrong. That even though our scenerios are each unique, we are all struggling to do the very best we can for the little lives that depend on us. It takes courage to be a mother and we should be more patient with ourselves when life isn't "perfect". 
- Tabbitha

Motherhood is the hardest but most rewarding job! 
- Kristina

Monday, May 23, 2016

the missed due date

I was supposed to deliver a baby this week.
I was due on May 27th.
I have C-sections, so in my mind I could have delivered on my grandfather's birthday on May 22nd. It had a nice ring to it, I thought. May is a good month for a baby, I imagined.

That was before the mishap.
The miscarriage.
It's kind of weird to decipher that word, miscarriage.
Like something was missed somehow and carried away.
Away to where? I'm not quite sure. But away. Gone.

I was due this week. I was supposed to have a baby. Bring someone home to raise this week. Introduce a new sibling to my two children this week.

I should be on maternity leave.
I should have swollen feet and hormones raging.
I should have a baby nursery set up, decorated, with receiving blankets and newborn diapers prepared.
I should have a diaper bag packed. There should be another car seat in my car right now.
I should be showered with love this week. People should be congratulating me and my husband on the birth of our beautiful child.

And yet I've realized since my miscarriage last fall that there are no "shouldas" in life. It doesn't work that way. And there was a time, a dark time, a dreary and sad tears-falling-nonstop time when that devastated me. I wanted the shouldas. I wanted to believe that I could control things, that things could go as planned in my mind. I did not want to believe that we could go way off track. It's too hard to imagine that things could change without our wanting them to. It's too hard to live that way, so we believe that all is OK in the world, all will be as we imagine it to be. 

I have wondered how I would feel this week. The Due Date Week. Back in the fall whenever people asked how I was doing, after a few months I started saying, "I'm healing, getting through it, feeling better than I did. I think May will be really hard, but right now I'm OK." Now that May is here, I feel OK. I never expected I could feel OK after the miscarriage. 

I know a lot of that has to do with me being blessed with another pregnancy. It also has a lot to do with the fact that back in the fall I didn't lose a baby. Our egg and sperm came together but nothing formed, no baby, no heartbeat. So I don't imagine that this week is someone's birthday. I don't see an angel in heaven. I 100% understand others feeling that way and I would, too, absolutely if I lost a baby. No baby was created for me last fall, except the one in my heart and mind, which was immensely painful to lose on its own. 

"Feeling like a hero but I can't fly.
No you'll never crash if you don't try.
Took it to the edge, now I know why.
Never gonna live if you're too scared to die..."

-Goo Goo Dolls 

Being pregnant now has made the world of difference in my healing. Today we saw our little one kicking away and actually waving on the ultrasound screen. We saw the heartbeat. I later heard it in the doctor's office, loud, clear, beating fast. Alive and well. All was good in my world. 

It took me months to forget that the same ultrasound screen showed me an empty black hole months ago. Today, I didn't think about it. I focused on my little one waving back at me, as if to say, "Brush those fears away, Mom. I'm OK today." It has not been easy to reach this place. Pregnancy after miscarriage is a very challenging thing. So many doubts and fears and what ifs. I get them daily it seems. And yet I'm realizing that all those shouldas and couldas and questions are worth nothing. We have to focus on today, right now. It's all we have. 

"Blinded by the light of a new sun... 
Breaking down the walls in my own mind
Keeping my faith for the bad times
Get up get up
Stand like a champion 
Take it to the world, gonna sing it like an anthem.
Hey hey, I'm so alive, I'm so alive...
You can make it on a wish if you want to..."
-Goo Goo Dolls

I have planned for months that my husband and I would take the day off on our due date. We said it back when the miscarriage was happening. He stayed home with me for days when I was in agonizing pain. He held me, wiped my tears, watched movies, and fixed me meals. I told him the only good thing that came out of my miscarriage was that we got time to be together and I felt closer to him then. We vowed we'd do this once a year, not necessarily on the due date, but that we'd just take a whole day to be together and sleep in and watch movies, eat food and talk. So I've had that date totally open on my calendar for months. I avoided booking meetings or work related activities. Well then this winter kicked my butt with sicknesses and I've taken too many days off from work so I'm heading in to work on the 27th instead. 

But I've treated myself to a pedicure this week and a walk by the ocean. I'm talking to my husband about how this feels, reaching the due date. I'm writing and reflecting. Because we can't keep these things in entirely. We may be the only ones who remember, who know, who acknowledge these painful moments or milestones, but that doesn't make them less important. 

On Friday I am hoping to hang out with friends and have my favorite food. I am planning to wear the necklace my friend gave me when I had the miscarriage. I might look through the cards and the dried fall yellow and orange leaves that I kept when I'd been searching for something beautiful during a dark time. I may re-read my blog posts from that tough time last fall just to remember. I may cry. I may choose to laugh instead. I'll tell my kids I love them more on this day. I'll hold my husband's hand and appreciate him even more on this day after all we survived together. I will definitely be grateful for what I have while reflecting on what could have been. 

I will remember the pain and hurt, if only to acknowledge the strength and courage, perseverance and determination that I felt in the aftermath. I am stronger for having gone through that experience. 

I'm a lucky one. I know this to be true. I have a rainbow baby growing in my belly on the same week that I was supposed to be delivering another one. I can easily see that I'm a lucky person. If I'd not had that miscarriage, I'd not have this growing baby inside me now. It's an incredible thing to think about. I'm blessed. The phrase that "things happen for a reason" is one that many women despise hearing after a miscarriage. For me, it's brought me comfort all along, and I finally understand it fully. 

I plan on Friday to light a candle to think of all the women who have gone through a miscarriage, who have lost babies with heartbeats or even those who, like me, lost big hopes and dreams. 

I plan to say a prayer for those going through this now. Those who are still in the dark place of a miscarriage's aftermath, where they have no hope, aren't ready to move past their grief, and who do not know yet that things will get better, that someday they will have their rainbow after the rain. I will pray for them the most. I was one of those women once. I wasn't sure I'd ever move past that difficult time. And here I am returning from an ultrasound where I smiled and was excited because a baby is  growing inside a place inside me where I thought nothing could grow anymore. 

"I'm so alive, I'm so alive, I'm so alive.
You can make it on a wish if you want to...
I am no (wo)man of steel, 
I have no heart of stone.
Don't tell me how it feels,
I'll find it on my own.
Hey, hey, hey...
Never gonna live if you're too scared to die.
I'm so alive, I'm so alive, I'm so alive...
You can make it on a wish if you want to..."
-Goo Goo Dolls

To those who have reached out and sent me cards, notes, and messages since my miscarriage... to those who have listened to my fears and worries during this pregnancy after miscarriage... thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I am grateful. 

I am stronger not on my own, but because of the love and support I have received from so many who went through this before I did, who reached out and told me, "It's OK how you feel, you're going to be OK, you will get through this, things will get better." I wasn't sure if I could believe them back then. 

Now, during the Due Date Week, I realize they were right. I am OK. I am better. Hope exists. 

Hugs, to the strong moms out there.